You’re locked inside a cabin with just one hour to put clues together and “escape.” Strange wall markings surround you that require deciphering, locked cabinets must be opened, riddles and puzzles need to be solved.
A television screen with a countdown clock displaying “60:00” begins its relentless descent to “0:00” once the only escape door is closed behind you. Once the countdown expires, so do you as the room fills with smoke, and everyone from your party is dead.
Well, the room doesn’t actually fill up with smoke, and you don’t really die, but you get the idea.
During my birthday weekend, my wife arranged our escape adventure with family and friends, something that I’ve always been intrigued with but never actually tried. I’m pretty good at puzzles and figuring things out. As a systems analyst, my entire adult working life, I’ve always assumed this would be a piece of cake. I could not have been more wrong.
Not a single aspect of this challenge was simple.
We chose the “Cabin in the Woods” adventure at “Just Escape” in Massapequa, which features several different rooms with varying degrees of difficulty. Our chamber was the most difficult, while others like “Carnival Conundrum” and “Sweet Revenge” were less complicated.
Upon arriving, several birthday parties were being hosted, all made up of pre-teen kids. Talk about sticking out like a sore thumb. While groups of kids were celebrating their successful escapes with cupcakes and pizza in the party room, we were struggling with the iPad to electronically sign the waiver. How were we ever going to escape from a room full of puzzles when we were having trouble with the waiver form?
Our party host said we were lost in the Massapequa woods, and our only hope for survival was to get into the cabin and find the escape map that would lead us to freedom. After informing us we are entitled to up to four clues at any time during our adventure, he handed us a flashlight, closed the door behind him, and the countdown clock began moving.
There was a box on the floor and others that hung on the wall with different locks. There was a mixture of key locks and combination locks with letters or numbers. Immediately, my wife found a key that opened a box containing puzzle pieces and clues. We found more hints on the underside of loose parts of the rug that led us to solve the door lock combination and get into the cabin. Easy, peasy.
Once inside the cabin, we were down to 45 minutes left on the clock. There were more locked boxes, laboratory beakers containing fragrant liquid, diagrams and pictures on the walls and a half-finished puzzle. Although we utilized all four of our allotted clues from the host, if we were to escape this cabin, we would have needed 10.
We got the hang of things late in the game, solving three or four of the riddles in the last 10 minutes as the countdown clock continued its march towards zero. Alas, we failed to complete all the tasks in the allotted hour and died a slow, horrible death.
Six adults with close to 360 years of life experience and four young adults with 115 years (and much sharper minds), yet we failed miserably. There was nothing left to do but smile at our ineptitude and try to convince ourselves that the entire concept, especially in this complicated room, was virtually impossible. Less than 40 percent of groups attempting this challenge succeeded in escaping within the 60 minutes allotted.
When our party host arrived to collect our dead bodies, it was no small consolation that although we failed to escape the cabin, we got further than most.
But man, it was a lot of fun. Maybe next time we’ll bring cupcakes and celebrate our escape from “Sweet Revenge” with all the other kids…
Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a 2018 Press Club of Long Island award-winning columnist and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.